Location & Origin
Elafonisi is a small island located near the southwestern tip of the Mediterranean island of Crete, to which it belongs administratively, within the regional unit of Chania. When the weather is nice, one can cross by walking the shallow waters that separate it from the beach and visit it.
The island is a protected nature reserve, characterized as a landscape of special natural beauty and Natura area along the opposite shores. Depending on the weather that prevails during the winter season, the beach of Elafonisi is shaped differently. Meaning that if one visits the beach for two years in a row, one will notice that the water level can rise, forcing someone to swim to go to Elafonisi and the next to go down, so he can just walk there and vice versa (and vice versa).
It has an area of about 0.3 square kilometers, a coastline of 4 kilometers and a maximum height of 39 meters. It is approximately rectangular in shape, with a length of 1.5 kilometers and a maximum width of 500 meters, although it is usually 150-300 meters wide. The island is opposite from an alluvial plain and is separated from the mainland by a shallow and narrow strait 150 meters wide. The island is higher at its western end, where it consists of limestones, while its eastern part is lower and sandy, with sandstones covered by sand dunes. The dunes are covered with halophytic vegetation. The island is characterized by dunes in which sand dunes of the species Ammophila arenaria grow and there is a significant number of sea lilies.
In ancient times on the island there was a sanctuary dedicated to the Muses of Apollo, leader of the Muses, as the ancients believed that the Muses with their music could calm the raging sea. The island itself was known as the Mussagore Islands. On the opposite shore was a sanctuary dedicated to Ino. Today on the island and next to the lighthouse is a small church dedicated to Saint Irene.
Modern History & The Tragic Event
At the highest point of the island there is a plaque, which honors the memory of a tragic event. Specifically, on Easter Sunday, April 24, 1824, several hundred Greeks, mostly women and children, were slaughtered in Elafonisi by Ottoman soldiers. In order to escape the advancing Turkish Ottoman forces, forty armed men had taken refuge on the island along with women, children and the elderly, where they waited for a ship to take them to the Ionian Islands.
The Ottoman soldiers had decided to camp on the beach opposite the island. One of their horses crossed the shallow waters that separated the island from the mainland and the people hiding on the island were revealed. According to several sources, there were a total of between 640 and 850 people on the island, most of whom were slaughtered and the rest of the survivors were sold in the slave markets of Egypt.